NASHVILLE – I had to apologize to my son recently.
We were on our way to church one Sunday, and he said, “Dad, I think I know all the Bible stories now.”
“Really?” I said. “All of them?”
“Just about,” he replied. “And I know all the songs we sing in church too.”
“That should make it easier for you to sing along,” I said.
“I don’t know why we keep going over the same stories and singing the same songs. Don’t they think we’ve got it down by now?”
“I’ve been studying the Bible and singing songs for a long time, Timothy. And I get something new from God’s Word every week.”
By this time, we were getting out of the van and walking toward the worship center. That’s when he said, “I don’t think we need to go to church every week. Why don’t we just wait until there’s something new to learn?”
I mulled over that conversation the rest of the day. We discussed it over lunch. Timothy’s grandmother, visiting us from Romania, started telling him about how she was reading through the Minor Prophets again, discovering things she’d forgotten over time. My wife started asking Timothy questions about stories she knew he wasn’t familiar with.
Meanwhile, I was wondering if the fact that our son is in a Christian home, Christian school and a Bible-teaching church has somehow overexposed him to the scriptures. He’s a 9-year-old with lots of Bible knowledge and entire chapters of the Bible memorized.
And then, it hit me. For months (maybe years), I’ve conditioned him to think that attending a worship service is all about learning. From our Saturday night prayers (“Be with us tomorrow, Lord, as we go to church and learn more about You”) to after-church conversations (“What did you learn in Sunday School today?”), our way of talking about church is predominantly educational. No wonder he thought we should move on. If church is school, then eventually, you graduate, right?
So, that night as I tucked him into bed, I apologized for not being clear on the reason we gather with other believers. “It’s not just about learning,” I told him. “It’s about worship. The learning is connected to our worship.”
“Is that why we sing the same songs?” he asked.
“Yes. When it’s easy for people to sing, they can concentrate on what they’re singing instead of struggling to learn a new song. Do you know how you like it when all the instruments fade away and you can hear everyone in church singing the same song as loud as they can – all of our voices harmonizing? That’s not about learning … it’s about worship. All of us together, worshipping God for how awesome He is.”
“We did David and Goliath today,” he said. “I already knew all about it. And the teacher left out the best part – when David used Goliath’s sword to cut his head off!”
“Yes, that is pretty cool,” I told him. “And you already know the story of David and Goliath. But the point of hearing the story again and again is not so that you learn more facts about the story. It’s that you are amazed again at God using a little guy like David to do something big for His people. That’s the way God is. That’s why we sing songs like, ‘How Great Is Our God’ in church and ‘Glorious and Mighty.’ We are worshipping Him for what He has done.”
“I like those songs.”
“Me too. And next time we sing them, think about the story of David and Goliath, and how powerful God is.”
“So it’s not just about learning.”
“Nope. The church isn’t a class you go to, son. It’s a people you belong to. It’s about worship. I’m sorry, son, if I’ve made you think otherwise.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project, encompassing Bible study resources for adults, students and children from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)